Household Broadband Usage Up Again

OpenVault just published its Broadband Insights Report for the end of the fourth quarter of 2021. As usual, the results are astounding and demonstrate the continued strong growth of household broadband usage.

I think one of the most useful statistics from OpenVault is the average household usage of broadband. Below is the trend in average U.S. household broadband usage since 2018. These numbers include combined download and upload usage.

1st Quarter 2018          215 Gigabytes

1st Quarter 2019          274 Gigabytes

1st Quarter 2020          403 Gigabytes

1st Quarter 2021          462 Gigabytes

4th Quarter 2021         536 Gigabytes

There were not many people in the industry in 2018 who would have believed that the average home usage in 2021 would be using over a half terabyte of data each month.

Another startling number is the percentage of U.S. households that now use over a terabyte of data each month – something that OpenVault calls power users. The following statistics also reach back to 2018. OpenVault says that 2.7% of all U.S. households now use over two terabytes of data per month. These statistics must be sweet music to those ISPs with data caps that penalize home for using the broadband they’ve purchased.

4th Quarter 2018            4.0%

4th Quarter 2019            7.3%

4th Quarter 2020          14.1%

4th Quarter 2021         16.1%

I think that the most interesting statistic is the rapid migration of customers to faster broadband tiers. The following table shows the percentage of nationwide households subscribed to various broadband speed plans just since June 2020.

June 2020 June 2021 Sept 2021 Dec 2021
Under 50 Mbps 18.4% 10.5% 9.8% 9.4%
50 – 99 Mbps 20.4% 9.6% 8.0% 7.6%
100 – 199 Mbps 37.8% 47.5% 38.4% 36.9%
200 – 499 Mbps 13.5% 17.2% 27.4% 28.5%
500 – 999 Mbps 5.0% 4.7% 5.1% 5.5%
1 Gbps 4.9% 10.5% 11.4% 12.2%

In just the last year, the number of households subscribed to gigabit broadband is up 250%, while the number subscribed to slower speeds has dropped precipitously. Many millions of homes over the last year upgraded to faster broadband plans.

But a big part of this shift comes from a change in the definition of existing broadband plans. For example, several of the big cable companies have started to describe the basic broadband package as delivering speeds up to 200 Mbps. From what we can see, in many cities changing the description of the product to 200 Mbps did not mean a change in the speeds that customers are receiving – this seems in many cases to be a marketing shift to make cable broadband look faster.

The latest report also includes a few other interesting statistics:

  • Average upload broadband usage is now up to 32 gigabytes per month. OpenVault hasn’t been tracking this for very long, and this has grown from 25 gigabytes of data per month in the third quarter of 2020 – a 28% increase.
  • The average U.S. home now has 25 connected devices.